Saturday, March 24, 2012

Used and Used Up

The mystery of Mary means precisely that God’s word did not remain alone; rather, it assimilated the other – the soil – into itself, became man in the soil of his Mother, and then, fused with the soil of the whole of humanity, returned to God in this new form…

To be soil for the word means that the soil must allow itself to be absorbed by the seed, to be assimilated by the seed, to surrender itself for the sake of transforming the seed into life. Mary’s maternity means that she willingly places her own substance, body and soul, into the seed so that new life can grow…  Mary makes herself entirely available as soil; she lets herself be used and used up, in order to be transformed into the One who needs us in order to become the fruit of the earth.

Mary, the Church at the Source, 14-15

Reflection – Well, I’m writing from beautiful Herring Cove, Nova Scotia, where I am to be giving a parish mission over this next week. The Atlantic Ocean is glistening away outside my window on a beautiful sunny morning, and the tang of salt in the air is a novelty to this normally land-locked priest.

And so we continue to contemplate the mystery of Mary as we approach her great feast day this Monday. We see here in this passage both the uniqueness of Mary’s vocation—she is the unique soil that God assimilated to Himself so as to forge this once-and-for-all change in the human condition—and the extent to which she reveals to us our vocation.

We are to do, in our own proper way, what Mary did. We are to be ‘absorbed’ by the seed, to ‘surrender ourself’ for the sake of the seed and its life in the world. This seed in Christ, his life in us, his will to become incarnate in our life, not as he did in Mary’s, but incarnate nonetheless.

We are to make ourselves available, to be used and used up, so as to be transformed into other Christs, so that the earth be fruitful.

We must contemplate these matters deeply. One of the greatest temptations and greatest tragedies of the human race is the choice to stay on the surface of things, to hold back from really plunging into the depths of life, God, love, meaning. To ‘settle’, to decide that these heights and depths are not for the likes of me, but for saints and mystics only. I will settle into having a nice little life, for sure being a good person who helps others, but nothing too dramatic.

We are made for more than that. We are made to give our soil, our flesh to God, and giving that soil and flesh to God, our life (whatever it consists of) to Him, to receive in turn His life from Him, and so bring (through Him, with Him, and in Him) the kingdom of heaven onto earth.

This may all happen in the very heart of your and my ‘nice little life’ where we help others out as we can. But there’s an element of depth that God wants to bring us to here, an element of surrender, of trust, of prayer.

And this is what Mary shows us. An ordinary woman who did this extraordinary thing in a very ordinary way. A baby who needed feeding and washing and raising, a boy who needed to be taught and clothed and nurtured, a young man going forth into the world while his mother watched and prayed, a mother watching her son die. The details have been repeated millions of times in the history of the world, and each individual element of it is ‘ordinary’.

But beneath the surface, what depths lie there. Totality of love; totality of surrender; totality of obedience; totality of forgiveness; totality of trust. And this is what God wishes to work in each of our ‘soils’, each of our hearts, so that He can bring us into the totality of grace in this life, so that our lives may be totally conduits for that grace in the world which needs it so desperately, and bring us into the totality of glory in the world to come.

Mary knows the way we are to walk, and this is why we turn to her and ask her help in all things.

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